Immigration is a common experience for many Latino families and no two immigration stories are the same. For decades, film has been one of the mediums that has allowed immigrants to tell their stories. Here are seven movies that tackle the issue of immigration from very different angles.
1. Under The Same Moon
Released in 2007, “Under The Same Moon (Bajo La Misma Luna)” stars Mexican actors Kate del Castillo and Eugenio Derbez. It follows a mother in the U.S. whose young son lives in Mexico with his grandmother. As del Castillo’s character works to save money so she can bring her son to the U.S., a family tragedy accelerates the child’s departure from Mexico. The movie shows what the young boy has to endure to make the journey from Mexico across the border to be reunited with his mother.
2. El Norte
This 1983 classic follows siblings Enrique and Rosa, who are forced to flee Guatemala when the violence from a decades-long civil war puts their lives at risk. Remembering their father’s declaration that the United States is a place where the poor “can make something of themselves,” the siblings begin a trek to the U.S. When the siblings leave Guatemala, they make their way to Mexico and seek out a coyote to help them cross the U.S.-Mexico border. They fail crossing the border several times, but once they make it to Los Angeles, they find out that not even El Norte will accept them. While Rosa and Enrique try to survive in the U.S. without the proper documentation, an illness tragically separates the siblings.
3. Sin Nombre
“Sin Nombre” is a 2009 Mexican thriller produced by Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna. It follows Sayra, a Honduran teenager migrating to the U.S. with her father and uncle, as well as Casper, a Mexican gang member. Casper, who robs migrants who ride trains headed for the U.S., meets Sayra when they both stow away on a train headed north. During their journey, Casper has to decide whether to maintain his total allegiance to his gang or to take a different path. From there, the film follows Sayra and Casper as they continue their journey north trying to make it to the U.S. When the two reach the border, things take a turn — you’ll have to watch the film to see how it ends.
4. Mi Familia (My Family)
“My Family” offers a more extensive look at the immigration narrative, covering multiple generations. Viewers first meet Jose and Maria, who migrate to the U.S. and settle in East L.A., where they start their family. As the film progresses, Jose and Maria’s children come of age and have children of their own. We see how an immigrant family can set down roots, grow and become part of the “American Dream.”
5. The Perez Family
“The Perez Family,” a 1995 comedy, follows Dorita and Juan, two Cubans who find themselves in Miami after a boat lift and discover that they have the same last name: Perez. They decide to pretend they’re husband and wife to make their entrance easier — but Juan already has a wife who he hasn’t seen in 20 years. On their journey, they “adopt” a young boy as their son and take in an elderly man as his father. Before you know it, comical romantic entanglement ensues, and the protagonists are forced to decide what their future will look like.
“Desierto,” starring Gael García Bernal, is a 2015 film that depicts what can only be explained as a nightmare. García Bernal’s character, Moises, is part of a group of immigrants who journey through the desert in an attempt to make it to the U.S. During their trek, the group splits into two, with one group far ahead of Moises’ group. What the immigrants don’t know is that Sam, a gun-toting man driving his truck along the border, is about to hunt them. It isn’t long until Sam spots the immigrants and begins to open fire, forcing them to scatter and try to wait him out in an attempt to survive a terrifying and life-threatening ordeal.
7. Entre Nos
“Enre Nos,” released in 2009, is the true story of a woman who makes the journey from Colombia with her children to Queens, New York to be reunited with her husband. When she arrives in the U.S., her husband abandons the family and leaves them to fend for themselves. The family is left digging through garbage and doing whatever it takes to get by. The movie gives audiences a heartbreaking look at the immigrant experience through the eyes of a single mother with two children.